I wanted to share with you some thoughts from “behind the scenes” from, what has been, one of the most heartbreaking and difficult times of ministry that I have known.
I have been really privileged to be part of a wonderful Church community in Clacton-on-Sea since the end of 2007. I have a great team of Deacons, some very committed volunteers and helpers and a Church family that I love dearly.
I find myself looking forward to Sunday services and our Deacons meetings, can only be described as a gathering of friends. On the Sundays when I am not here, I really miss the Church family.
I take the writer to the Hebrews seriously when he says;
And let us not neglect our meeting together
(Hebrews 10 vs. 25 – NLT)
Over the past couple weeks, the world that I know, and love, has changed. Coronavirus has turned my (and many others) world on its head.
I cannot recall anything, in my lifetime, that I can equate with Coronavirus. I remember bread shortages and the 3 day week (but, only just). I remember the summer of 1976 and seeing stand-pipes in the streets. This is something different for us in modern Britain. Something that, it seems, we are powerless to control.
In the early days there seemed to be a lack of information and direction. I can remember one politician saying that we should “wash our hands whilst singing the national anthem”. It seemed to me that they were not taking it seriously and so, I too could treat it with humour.
As more details have emerged, however, I appreciated that this is something that needs to be sensibly dealt with. Again, a lack of information from Government made my task impossible. I was being asked to make decisions based on zero knowledge.
This has all changed this week.
The Government announcement on Monday and subsequent clarifications meant that we, like many Churches, we have had to make the difficult decision to, temporarily, close our doors. This was the advice from the Government, and the national Church.
This really goes against the grain for me. I like the fact that our doors are open most days of the week because, I have always believed that, the Church should be at the heart of community open and available as a praying presence. I am also aware that the church supports members of our church family and the wider community. If the doors are closed, how can we do this?
As I have tried to come to terms with the implications, I am sure I am not the only minister who has had a few sleepless nights worrying. There have been times when I have felt so out of my depth and uttered overwhelmed by the decisions I have had to make and I am still making.
I have read comments from some ministers who say “exciting times ahead” ; “time to stop doing church and start being church” and so on. I confess I am not feeling excited – I am heartbroken.
I don’t dispute with the decisions that national Government and denominational leaders are making. Painful though they are, ultimately, I think they are right. I agree that people should self isolate and take sensible precautions so that this pandemic is controlled.
I believe the measures we have put in place locally, are the only ones we can in light of the situation. We are offering practical help to folk who find themselves in isolation.
In addition, we will be live streaming a, shortened, act of worship. If you would like to receive the links for this, please let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Church building will be open from 10:30 – 11:30 on Sunday morning for private prayer only. We will, however, continue to monitor the given advice and local events as I am not sure if we will be able to continue to do this. There are ways that we can continue to support one another and keep in touch. Phone calls, messaging, and texts. I would urge you to keep in contact.
Despite all of this, I am looking forward to the day when our doors are open again and normal service is resumed.
I continue to hold our fellowship, community, nation and world in prayer.